Full 2015 Lexus RX 350 Review
What's New for 2015
For the 2015 Lexus RX 350, the 7-inch display screen and a rearview camera are now standard equipment. LED headlights and foglights are new options, and the Remote Touch knob has been revised for better ergonomics.
It's easy to see why the 2015 Lexus RX 350 is one of the most popular luxury crossover SUVs on sale. Its supple ride, finely finished interior, long list of available luxury features, famed reliability, above average cargo capacity and spacious five-passenger cabin are all desirable qualities for luxury crossover SUVs. To decide whether it's the right vehicle for you, however, you might take into account a few other factors.
The RX 350's 3.5-liter V6 engine is exceptionally smooth, but all-around performance of the RX isn't exactly pulse-raising. Lexus does offer a sporty F Sport version, but we've found it does little to enhance the experience. Also, while the RX is certainly roomy, it only comes as a five-passenger version, with no third-row seat available. If you've got a growing family, other luxury crossovers with three rows of seating might work out better.
If those extra seats are a priority, the 2015 Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60 each have their own unique take on the luxury crossover formula. The Infiniti has the most space for those third-row occupants, while the Acura places less emphasis on luxury and more on an engaging driving experience. If you're sticking with a standard five-passenger premium crossover, the classy Mercedes-Benz M-Class or surprisingly upscale Volkswagen Touareg are also very good choices. For a lot of car shoppers, though, the RX 350 is going to provide that ideal mix of luxury, space and utility. It's certainly worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2015 Lexus RX 350 seats five people and is available in two trim levels: standard and F Sport. A fuel-efficient hybrid-electric version, the RX 450h, is covered in a separate review.
The RX 350, which is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, foglamps, LED running lamps, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with two-way power lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a sliding and reclining rear seat with one-pull folding levers, cloth upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Standard electronics features include a 7-inch display screen, a rearview camera, Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 12-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. Those with iPhone 4S or 5 models can also use the voice-operated Siri Eyes Free feature.
The 2015 Lexus RX 350 offers several option packages, some of which require the purchase of one to obtain another. Availability can also vary by region, so you'll want to check with your local dealer.
The Premium package adds a sunroof, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, roof rails, leather upholstery and driver memory settings. A version of this package also can be had with a blind-spot monitoring system. The Luxury package incorporates the contents of the Premium package and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, headlight washers, a heated steering wheel, a power driver seat cushion extender, upgraded leather upholstery, a household-style power outlet and a smog-sensing auto climate control recirculation.
The Comfort package requires either the Premium or Luxury packages and adds automatic wipers, xenon headlamps and heated and ventilated front seats. All of this package's items are available as individual options.
The RX 350 F Sport includes standard all-wheel drive and the contents of the Premium and Comfort packages as well as 19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, an eight-speed automatic transmission, special exterior styling elements, special interior trim and perforated leather upholstery. When the Luxury package is applied to the F Sport, it includes a blind-spot monitoring system that is also available separately.
The Navigation package also requires either the Premium or Luxury packages, and adds a navigation system, voice controls, the Remote Touch controller, HD radio and the Lexus Enform app suite that includes Safety Connect security and accident-mitigation functions.
Depending on which option package you select, individual options include LED headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision warning/braking system, a head-up display, a dual-screen rear entertainment system and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.
The F Sport's wheels and special styling can be added to the front-drive RX 350 via the available Sport Appearance package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2015 Lexus RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. The F Sport model only comes with all-wheel drive and includes an eight-speed automatic.
In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive RX 350 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is average for the class. The F Sport was actually a little slower despite a more sophisticated transmission and its advantageous gearing.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with the six-speed automatic is 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway) with all-wheel drive. Thanks to its more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, the all-wheel-drive F Sport is rated at 21 mpg combined (18/26).
Properly equipped, the RX 350 can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is less than most competitors can manage.
Every 2015 Lexus RX 350 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, a rearview camera and the Safety Connect emergency communications system that includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and stolen vehicle location services.
Optional are a blind-spot monitoring system and a frontal pre-collision warning and brake-priming system (bundled with the adaptive cruise control).
In Edmunds brake testing, an RX 350 came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 114 feet, which is 10 feet shorter than average. Curiously, the supposedly sportier F Sport stopped in a merely average 123 feet.
In government crash testing, the RX 350 received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the RX 350 the highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The RX's seats/head restraints also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Lexus reputation for high-quality cabin fittings is fully on display in the 2015 RX 350 line, where nearly everything you touch and see has an exceptional feel and finish. Even small controls and buttons, such as the radio volume knob and the power-seat switches, work with a precision that demonstrates these are not items found in everyday vehicles.
When you opt for the Navigation package you also get the Lexus Remote Touch system, which is a mouselike controller that allows the user to move among a variety of icons on the centrally located screen. It's a nice idea and adds to the luxury ambience, but in practice we've found that the cumbersome on-screen menus and the controller's imprecise nature draw too much of your attention away from the road. On the upside, the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
Settling in to a comfortable driving position is easy with the standard multi-adjustable driver seat, although the seats could use more support for the thighs. Rear passengers enjoy sizable windows and a seat that both reclines and slides. This movement also pairs with a 40/20/40 split to help make the rear seat a more versatile place according to your passenger-to-cargo ratio. With the rear seat slid fully forward, you can get a comfy 40 cubic feet of storage in the cargo area, while dropping the rear seats doubles volume.
When it comes to getting a comfy ride quality, you're not going to be able to do much better than the 2015 Lexus RX 350. The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation isolate passengers from the outside world in a silent bubble of luxury. The 3.5-liter V6 is notably quiet, but it's also powerful enough to accelerate this crossover with ease. The softly sprung suspension never feels floaty, and the RX is secure and stable when going around turns.
Still, those seeking a more engaging driving experience should consider the Acura MDX or Audi Q5. We don't recommend the RX 350 F Sport, as it suffers from an overly firm ride, with no appreciable increase in driving feedback or involvement. Worse still, its handling and braking numbers at our track were actually worse than those of the regular RX 350.